Tiger safaris travel guide

Tiger safari travel guide


2 minute summary

The tiger is both revered and feared. Elusive and exalted. It is the national symbol of India and yet it is, ironically, royalty, be it Mughals, Maharajas or British who were responsible for wiping out vast numbers of its tiger population. Hunting tigers became the favourite pastime of the rich and regal as far back as the late 1800’s. The magnificence of the tiger has always been central to literature too, from Winnie the Pooh to William Blake. And yet, when Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book in 1897, there were 10,000 wild tigers on the Indian subcontinent. Today there are just over 3000 worldwide, the shrinking population due also to diminishing habitats caused by deforestation and development. There are now six subspecies remaining in the world: the Bengal Tiger, Siberian tiger, South China tiger, Indochinese tiger, Malayan tiger and the Sumatran tiger. You can see most of them on a tiger safari in India but also in Bangladesh, Butan, Nepal and Siberia. The impact of seeing a tiger is a highly emotional one, touching the psyche in multi-dimensional ways - discovering something precious you feared was lost, being transported back to your childhood dreams, witnessing poetry in motion or, for some, simply a deeply spiritual moment. Read more about watching the most captivating big cat of all in our Tiger Safari Travel Guide.
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Is a tiger safari for you?


RESPONSIBLETRAVEL.COM RECOMMENDS

Do go and see tigers in the wild if…

  • … you are passionate about tiger conservation. Being highly endangered, the time is now to not only glimpse them in the wild, but also support tourism as a vital means of conservation.
  • … you want to combine natural and cultural heritage in one trip, because India is going to awaken every sense and satisfy all wanderlust. Taj at sunrise, tigers at sunset. Roll camera…
  • … you also want to see leopards, sloth bears, elephants, Asiatic lions, thousands of birds, deer, the list goes on.
  • …you are organised. You need to book safaris well in advance, as national parks tickets are the hottest ones in town these days. As are beds at local lodges and safari camps.
Don’t go and watch tigers in the wild if…

  • …you are impatient. They are the most loved animals in the jungle. And you know what they say. You can’t hurry love. You just have to wait.
  • … you just want to get your eye on the tiger. It can never be guaranteed. So, if you are a ‘tick box’ wildlife watcher this probably isn’t for you.
  • ….you just want the tropics. Depending on the season, it can be very cold on morning safaris, with hats and gloves a must.
  • ….you have a heart condition. It will skip more than a few beats when you see one, for sure.

Tiger safaris


WHAT DO TIGER SAFARI HOLIDAYS ENTAIL?

The majority of tiger safaris take place in India in their national parks and tiger reserves, all now protected since 1971 when the new prime minister, Indira Gandhi went on a mission to stop the devastating demise of tigers by setting up Project Tiger, which still exists today, but is more commonly known as the National Tiger Conservation Authority. Tiger safaris have, therefore, become fairly bureaucratic, which is why you need to book well in advance and use an experienced operator to ensure you get the best possible experience out of what will be, for most people, a long awaited dream come true.
And when that dream becomes reality, you will need to spend at least four or five days in tiger watching landscapes to allow for a sighting. Ideally you will be staying in a lodge, in the immediate environs of the tiger reserve so that you can start your game drive early.
In India, tiger safaris generally take place in an open jeep, a minibus known as a canter or, less common nowadays, on the back of an elephant. Known as ‘tiger shows’, these are controversial, as discussed in our ‘issues’ section, however these treks have become an important source of income for tiger conservation in some parks in India. In general, outside national parks that provide tiger safaris, we do not support elephant trekking at Responsible Travel. Read our guide on elephant conservation here.
In any case, you get much better interpretation and wildlife knowledge from a guide on a jeep tour, as elephant guides are ‘mahouts’ or elephant trainers, where the focus is on controlling the elephant rather than promoting the environment. An ideal number of people in your jeep is four, keeping the noise impact to a minimum and also ensuring you comfort on the game drive. In more remote tiger habitats, such as in Nepal, Bhutan and Siberia, exploring by foot is more common.
Photo credits: [Btm box - tiger safari: Brian Gratwicke]
Written by Catherine Mack
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